How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in California

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In California, the demand for physical therapist assistants is steady and at a high level.

If you want to enter a field with many career possibilities perhaps becoming a physical therapist assistant is the right thing to do.

Read on about the steps you have to follow, for this exciting occupation!

Becoming a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant

The Physical Therapy Board of California oversees physical therapist assistants.

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The Board requires individuals to earn a license as a physical therapist assistant.

For this, they must attend a CAPTE-accredited degree program and get a degree similar to the ones below:

  • Associate of Science (AS) in Physical Therapist Assistant
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Physical Therapist Assistant

Your program will generally be about 4 semesters long and it must include at least 500 hours of hands-on experience.

Each school offering degrees similar to the ones above will design a different curriculum.

However, the topics will generally cover:

  • Supervised Tutoring in Physical Therapist Training
  • Physical Therapy Introduction
  • Introduction to Human Movement
  • Physical Therapy Techniques
  • Introduction to Pathology
  • Introduction to Therapeutic Exercise
  • Orthopedic Exercise and Rehabilitation

The internships are usually offered through the school, though contacting a hospital directly is another way of getting into an internship.

You will obtain your license after you get your degree and after passing the licensing examination.

You’ll need to apply to take the exam.

This application is for both the exam and for obtaining the license itself.

You’ll need these documents:

  • Application for licensure and/or examination
  • Certificate of completion form
  • Livescan fingerprinting
  • $125 – Application fee and form

The fee must be paid to PTBC.

The website of the Board has the forms you need to apply.

There are actually 2 exams you must pass to obtain your license:

  • The National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
  • The California Law Examination (CLE)

Both exams are organized at the Prometric testing centers.

You’ll need to register with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to take them.

Furthermore, there are more fees to pay, and for the national test these are:

  • $400 registration fee with FSBPT
  • $70 scheduling fee with Prometric

It’s important to consult the NPTE Candidate Handbook, to learn more details, such as:

  • General Information
  • Examination Security
  • Preparing for the Exam
  • Arranging to Take the Exam
  • Rescheduling
  • Content Outlines
  • Sample Questions

The national exam has 200 questions and they cover:

  • PT Data Collection
  • Diseases & Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment
  • Interventions
  • Equipment and Devices
  • Therapeutic Modalities
  • Safety and Protection
  • Professional Responsibilities
  • Research

FSBPT sends the results from the test directly to the Board.

The fees to take the law exam are:

  • $30 registration fee
  • $20 scheduling fee

The registration and scheduling of this test can be done online.

This exam lasts for 1 hour and covers:

  • The Board’s laws, rules, and regulations related to physical therapy
  • Physical Therapy Practice Act (before 2014)
  • Physical Therapy Regulations
  • Statutes Outside Physical Therapy Practice Act

The results from this test are again sent directly to the Board by FSBPT.

You should expect a notification from the Board with an acceptance or rejection answer, after 45 days.

Physical Therapist Assistant Salary Information

There was an estimated 35.6% increase in demand for physical therapist assistants between 2012 and 2022.

The best employers of physical therapist assistants in California are:

  • Looking Forward, Inc. – Los Angeles
  • Valley Hills Physical Therapy – Los Angeles
  • Physical Rehabilitation Network – San Diego
  • Sharp HealthCare – San Diego
  • InSearch Medical – San Diego
  • Protocol Healthcare – San Diego
  • Interface Rehab, Inc. – Oroville
  • AFFIRMA Rehabilitation – Mountain View
  • S. Department of State – Long Beach
  • Rehab Group – Pasadena
  • Loma Linda University – Loma Linda
  • Universal Health Services – Corona
  • Department of Veterans Affairs – Long Beach
  • Ensign Therapy – Huntington Beach

The salaries for these professionals are higher in the larger cities of the state.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Los Angeles $63,068
San Diego $60,179
San Jose $69,984
San Francisco $69,705
Fresno $55,474
Sacramento $60,276
Long Beach $62,177
Oakland $66,360
Bakersfield $59,724
Anaheim $62,317

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA110$72,790$34.99$98,090$32,880
Chico, CA40$71,850$34.54$95,180$49,360
Fresno, CA210$70,660$33.97$85,720$36,400
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA3,040$77,750$37.38$95,930$34,670
Merced, CA40$63,760$30.65$92,920$29,390
Modesto, CA150$68,280$32.83$103,610$32,310
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA250$70,430$33.86$92,490$32,230
Redding, CA70$69,940$33.62$95,320$31,410
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA830$78,090$37.54$96,580$62,440
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA430$80,740$38.82$98,760$61,000
Salinas, CA60$72,910$35.05$98,770$31,520
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA840$80,060$38.49$96,480$60,840
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA960$89,510$43.03$112,860$65,290
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA260$94,860$45.61$120,810$72,600
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA60$69,190$33.26$90,780$30,430
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA70$79,260$38.11$104,690$52,980
Santa Rosa, CA70$79,600$38.27$111,820$33,910
Stockton-Lodi, CA100$72,350$34.78$97,350$37,130
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA50$75,360$36.23$100,690$39,690
Visalia-Porterville, CA80$74,510$35.82$95,250$56,150
Yuba City, CA50$75,890$36.49$93,860$55,970
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Physical Therapist Assistants, OCC Code 31-2021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Physical Therapist Assistant License Renewal Information

Physical therapist assistants in California need to renew their license every 2 years.

For this, 15-30 continuing competency hours must be completed.

Those who submit their license renewal request before the expiry date must complete these classes:

  • Basic Life Support – 4 hours
  • Ethics, Laws, and Regulations – 2 hours
  • Other coursework – 9 hours

Those who submit their requests after their licenses expired, will need to complete these classes:

  • Basic Life Support – 4 hours
  • Ethics, Laws, and Regulations – 2 hours
  • Other coursework – 24 hours

The classes can be completed through activities such as:

  • Continuing education courses
  • College coursework
  • Attending a conference
  • Attending a board meeting
  • Completing an FSBPT practice review tool
  • Completing training as an expert consultant for the board
  • Performing in a role as a clinical instructor
  • Serving on a board task force
  • Publishing a peer-reviewed journal article, case study, or book chapter

USA Physical Therapist Assistant Schools by State

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